THE VANCOUVER Canucks fired John Tortorella yesterday, 1 year into the fiery coach's long-term deal.
Tortorella, who signed a 5-year contract last summer after being dismissed by the New York Rangers, went 36-35-11 and failed to reach the playoffs behind the Vancouver bench. Assistant coach Mike Sullivan was also fired.
The Canucks' 25th-place finish in the 30-team NHL, their worst in 14 years, came just three seasons after former coach Alain Vigneault led the team to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Vigneault replaced Tortorella as coach of the Rangers and advanced to the second round of the playoffs on Wednesday with a Game 7 win over the Flyers.
Tortorella's dismissal came just weeks after general manager Mike Gillis was fired. The Canucks then named former team captain Trevor Linden as president of hockey operations.
"We are making an important change in the direction of our team," Linden said in a statement.
Firing Tortorella was the first significant move for Linden in his new job, though it didn't come as much of a surprise. Linden is in the process of hiring a new general manager, and he has said that person should be in charge of hiring Vancouver's new coach.
"We have a lot of important work to accomplish this offseason as we build our management and coaching staffs, improve our roster and connect with our fans," Linden said. "Our general manager search is well under way and we will begin assessing head coaching candidates immediately."
At his season-ending news conference last month, Tortorella took some of the blame but also placed a lot of it on the players. He said the Canucks are getting old, the core group has become complacent, and the team needs to get younger.
"I felt from Day 1 that it's stale," he said. "That's not their fault. This is a group that has been together for a long time.
"It needs youth. It needs a change. The team needs to be retooled. It's a young man's game. It's certainly not a criticism of [the veterans]. We need to surround them with some enthusiasm."
* The New York Islanders acquired the negotiating rights to veteran goalie Jaroslav Halak from the Washington Capitals for a fourth-round pick in a trade between teams that failed to make the playoffs.
* Longtime defenseman Tom Poti is retiring from hockey after 14 NHL seasons. He played 824 regular-season games with the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and the Washington Capitals.
In last night's game
* At Boston, P.K. Subban scored his second goal of the game at 4:17 of the second overtime to give the Montreal Canadiens a 4-3 victory over the Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The goal came 7 seconds into the Canadiens' second power play of overtime. Fans pelted the ice with cups and giveaway towels as the players filed off the ice.
Carey Price stopped 48 shots for Montreal.